Since the eighties information science has embraced the methods of philosophical ontology to represent and reason in the heterogeneous world of intelligent systems. The need for a reliable and flexible way to describe these systems has pushed toward ontological methods that guarantee a result as general as possible while remaining faithful to the things one wants to represent. Nowadays, ontologies are a crucial concept in this area and are employed at different modelling stages although, we must add, a principled methodology is still lacking. This situation is particularly evident in large domain areas where the right level of generality is hard to reach and it is the cause of many unsolved modelling problems.
A typical example is the class of and quot, artefacts and quot, that is, entities ranging from concrete objects like bolts and nuts to objects characterized by their content like books, files or programs. In the case of artefacts, interoperability is of utmost importance. For that reason, a reliable and general way to make functionality explicit and to represent physical and computational features is crucial. The aim of this project is the development an ontology of artefacts that captures their functional and material aspects.
The underlying view is based on the assumption that functionality is closely related to the shared context in which artefacts are used. Also, it is believed that a unifying theory concerning both works of art and technical artefacts is possible and that this approach can put it forward. In the second part of the project, the proponent aims at verifying the results of his theory by applying it to the domain of and quot; information objects and quot: books, computers files, catalogues, and so on. Indeed, information objects are at the core of interoperability problems in information systems and provide a huge amount of data for a genuine evaluation of the general theory here developed.
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